229 22 Sustainability for the rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin Richard T. Kingsford Introduction The Lake Eyre Basin and its rivers are globally unique. Known for millennia in the minds of its many inhabitants as a place of magnificent booms and equally prodigious busts, the Basin’s rivers are the most variable large rivers in the world (Puckridge et al. 1998). Its truly unique ecology thrives with this variability, where organisms continue to surprise us, with their astonishing adaptations. Given our desire to control water for human use, the future of all rivers across the world is precarious. The Lake Eyre Basin shares this uncertain future, which must impresses upon us our responsibility to safeguard it as the last and best of its kind in the world. So, what is the path for sustainability of Lake Eyre Basin rivers? Where will the communities and the rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin be in 20, 50 or 100 years? Or even, if we were brave thousands or tens of thousands of years? The Lake Eyre Basin’s unpredictability and remoteness have shaped and governed the way humans use water in this landscape, through the millennia by Aboriginal Australians and today’s regional centres, mining operations and pastoral stations. Despite its resilience during the Anthropocene, this great wonder of the natural world remains under pressure to contribute to food, fibre and energy security for our ever-increasing global population. Long-term sustainability of this amazing environmental system ultimately depends on us, more so now than at any other time in the Basin’s history. This final chapter integrates the other 21 chapters of this book by projecting the future of the Lake Eyre Basin against a global backdrop, incorporating its social, economic and environmental dimensions. It focuses on the threats, clearly identified in the chapters of this book, and also on solutions for a future, built on the successful partnerships that have so far protected, shaped and sustainably managed this unique environment (see Chapter 7). This synthesis is informed by local, Traditional Owner and scientific knowledge and community gatherings of people from different disciplines and all walks of life (e.g. the conference, ‘Spotlight on Lake Eyre Basin’ at Longreach the basis for this book (Fig. 22.1). They have all provided strong support for the widely accepted vision developed by the Lake Eyre Basin community: Lake Eyre Basin Australia’s unique, natural, desert river system: healthy environments, sustainable industries, vibrant communities, adaptive cultures. Threats to the rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin We know much about threats to rivers, not just in Australia but around the world, and how much damage can be done directly and indirectly by people, in a relatively short period
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